Arguably the most challenging property for Marvel Studios to develop and market on the path to The Avengers was Thor thanks to its relatively outlandish story and characters. By comparison, Hulk already had a few movies and a classic television series under his belt; Iron Man was by then a mainstream success; and Captain America had 70 years of history on his side and some major headlines in recent years thanks to his "death" in the comics.
Thor, on the other hand, was (literally) out of this world and introducing the cosmic side of Marvel Comics to mainstream moviegoers among more grounded character stories from Cap, Iron Man and Hulk was no easy task. Add in the risk of casting relatively unfamiliar faces into the two lead roles and banking on Thor to serve as a prelude to The Avengers, and Marvel Studios owes a substantial chunk of its success to the performances of Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston.
In chatting with SFX for next week's UK release of The Avengers (titled Avengers Assemble in the region) on home video, Hiddleston recounted his experiences working with Joss Whedon and the cast behind Marvel's biggest movie yet.
On working with Joss Whedon:
"What impressed me the most about Joss initially was the incredible screenplay we had to work with on Marvel’s The Avengers. Directing this film was a feat in itself, but his screenplay was phenomenal. I’m sure none of us really knew what to expect, but I take my hat off to Joss for that. He was incredibly open and that’s what you want as an actor: you want to collaborate. Everyone has a certain level of ownership of their character and Joss was very respectful of that possession. He would constantly ask us, ‘Does this feel right for your character? Does this feel true to you? Is this in your voice?'"
On learning that the character of Loki would move straight from Thor to leading an army against The Avengers the following year:
"Kevin Feige suggested Loki would be part of The Avengers storyline when I got cast in Thor, but I was so busy trying to build the character that I couldn’t think about it. I knew perfectly well that if I was rubbish in Thor, I wouldn’t get anywhere near The Avengers. That’s when I thought I’d just take everything one step at a time."
"Towards the end of the Thor shoot, Joss Whedon came into Marvel for a script meeting and he asked Kenneth Branagh to see a rough cut of Thor. Joss wanted to see what he could do with Chris Hemsworth and where to take the character of Thor, as well as Loki. Joss loved it so much that we went for a cup of tea and we had a long, fantastic conversation where we swapped loads of ideas. Joss said to me, "There’s been some talk of multiple villains in this movie, but I think you can do it on your own," which was the most incredible compliment. I had a mountain to climb after that."
When Kenneth Branagh was hired to direct Thor, Hiddleston (whom Branagh worked with in Wallander) was one of the many candidates who read for the title role. He even made it into the shortlist of top choices before being handed the role he was better (perfectly?) suited for in Loki. Little did Hiddleston know at the time he would be having a lead role in blockbuster films three years in a row.
Joss Whedon directed the post-credits button at the end of Thor which served as a lead-in to The Avengers where Loki was confirmed to be returning as at least one of the antagonists. At the time, Whedon was rewriting The Avengers script by Zak Penn where at one point, the Red Skull could have been the main villain of the film. As we know now, Loki ended up being the headliner who led the alien invasion, but he answered to someone - Thanos (via his henchman, The Other).
The followup Thor: The Dark World began shooting in early September 2012 in the UK and picks up where The Avengers left off with Loki in incarceration for his crimes against Asgard and Earth. Loki's story arc will explore new territory as Hiddleston's character will show his sensitive side on his path to acceptance and redemption as Thor and co. face new and much greater threats across multiple realms. Where Loki and Tom Hiddleston go next, we'll have to wait and see...